US car sales analysis March 2018 – brands

The see-sawing continued as the US car market swung back with exuberant fashion following growth in January and a dip in February. With sales growing by 6.3%, March was the best performance the US car market has seen in over two years, with many brands recording growth rates of over 30%. As in previous months, it is too early to speculate whether this means that the market will grow or shrink in 2018, but the omens are certainly good – consumer confidence is high, gas prices are not too high, and the economy is chugging along very nicely. However, while year-to-date sales are now up 2.0% on this time last year, this is a slim advantage that could easily be wiped out by a single bad month. 

Highlights:

  • Eight of the Top 10 brands recorded positive growth in March, a better performance that in January (six) and February (three)
  • Unlike in January and February, it was the mainstream brands that lead the way with a 6.6% rise in sales, relative to a 4.1% rise in sales for luxury brands
  • From among the Top 10 brands by far the biggest winner was once again Jeep in sixth, whose sales rise of 44.7% makes 2017 seem like a distant nightmare (sales declined each month); what’s more, things are only likely to get better as the new Wrangler and redesigned Cherokee hit the market
Jeep_Compass-2017-US-car-sales-statistics
Jeep Compass
  • Two other brands experienced double-digit growth: Chevrolet saw its sales rise 15.6%, allowing it to claw back a bit of the deficit to Toyota (which remains ahead in the YTD standings after another good month), and GMC, whose 11.4% almost erased its YTD sales decline, and allowed it to hold onto ninth in the standings
  • Most other brands in the Top 10 recorded solid if unspectacular single-digit growth, with the exception being Nissan, whose YTD sales growth is now down to only 0.5%, and Hyundai, which in keeping with recent trends saw its sales fall by a little over 10%
  • Just outside of the Top 10 two mainstream brands put in a great performance: Mazda sales were up 35.7% and Volkswagen sales were up 17.8%, with the former’s faster pace of growth allowing it to overtake its German rival in the YTD ranking, if only by 43 units
  • Interestingly, the two brands’ sales growth highlights the importance of crossovers such as the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan L and Atlas in the US market, with crossover sales accounting for over half of Volkswagen’s sales in March, compared to less than 20% just a year ago
  • There were plenty of other good performances among mainstream brands lower down the standings ladder, with Buick seeing its sales rise by 28.0%, Chrysler seeing an unusual 14.9% sales rise that almost wiped out its YTD sales loss, and Mitsubishi continuing its sales growth of over 20% so far this year
  • Nonetheless, a few mainstream brands lost out: Ram‘s sales continued their decline as the market waits for the new Pickup, Dodge was unable to get back in the black as it lost 1.8%, Mini was unable to build on its amazing 40% plus sales growth in February as its sales fell 9.1%, all but erasing its YTD sales gains, while the misery continued at Fiat and Smart
  • The fortunes of luxury brands were pretty varied in March, with many brands posting strong double-digit growth, a few posting moderate losses, and a few posting serious double-digit declines
  • Just as in February, the clear winner in March was Volvo, whose sales were up 53.9% on the back of demand for the new XC60, as well as Land Rover, whose sales were up 37.8%
Volvo_XC60-auto-sales-statistics-Europe
Volvo XC60
    • Other clear winners included Audi (sales up 7.4%, extending its growth streak to 101 months), Cadillac (sales up 12.7%), Acura (whose sales increase of 15.7% pushed its YTD sales growth solidly into the black), Porsche (sales up 6.2%) and Alfa Romeo, which set a new sales record of 2,576, more than 20% higher than its previous high, and impressively only some 20% down on Jaguar one place ahead of it in the standings
    • Surprisingly, many of the leading luxury brands registered modest declines in March, with sales down 1.8% at Mercedes-Benz, 3.2% down at Lexus, 4.6% down at Infiniti and 2.1% down at Lincoln
    • Still, this was nothing compared to the 21.0% sales drop at Genesis, or the alarming sales drops of over 30% at Maserati and Jaguar (at least with the British brand there is a sense that respite is coming in the shape of the E-Pace on the lower end and the electric i-Pace on the high end – Maserati has no new products or even updates in the pipeline)
    • Among exclusive brands McLaren once again doubled its sales, Bentley unexpectedly saw its sales fall by 33.7% after it finally recorded positive growth in February, while Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini both recorded sales declines (Ferrari is yet to report its figures for March)

    Brand ranking

    Monthly YTD
    # Model Mar’18 Mar’17 Δ # 2018 2017 Δ
    a1 Ford 233,669 225,341 3.7% a1 574,332 586,462 -2.1%
    a2 (1) Chevrolet 199,367 172,458 15.6% a3 (1) 490,919 471,723 4.1%
    a3 (1) Toyota 195,750 187,254 4.5% a2 (1) 507,821 470,615 7.9%
    a4 Nissan 145,103 150,566 -3.6% a4 375,116 373,330 0.5%
    a5 Honda 128,855 125,531 2.6% a5 329,077 333,531 -1.3%
    a6 Jeep 98,382 67,983 44.7% a6 228,105 188,743 20.9%
    a7 Hyundai 60,152 66,966 -10.2% a8 (1) 144,514 162,591 -11.1%
    a8 Subaru 58,097 54,871 5.9% a7 (1) 149,703 144,250 3.8%
    a9 (2) GMC 55,646 49,948 11.4% a9 (1) 131,344 133,611 -1.7%
    b10 (2) Kia 50,645 49,429 2.5% b10 (2) 126,945 127,728 -0.6%
    b11 (1) Dodge 49,184 50,076 -1.8% b11 (2) 116,971 134,063 -12.7%
    b12 (3) Ram 44,878 51,749 -13.3% b12 (1) 113,654 132,579 -14.3%
    b13 (4) Mazda 33,302 24,549 35.7% b14 (2) 83,995 69,071 21.6%
    b14 (2) Volkswagen 32,548 27,635 17.8% b15 (1) 83,952 76,290 10.0%
    b15 (2) Mercedes-Benz 31,374 31,963 -1.8% b13 86,660 86,574 0.1%
    b16 (2) BMW 31,311 31,015 1.0% b16 (1) 73,835 71,682 3.0%
    b17 (2) Lexus 27,032 27,935 -3.2% b17 64,211 61,845 3.8%
    b18 Buick 26,834 20,957 28.0% b18 56,504 50,205 12.5%
    b19 Audi 20,090 18,705 7.4% b19 (1) 50,052 45,647 9.7%
    b20 (1) Chrysler 19,499 16,969 14.9% b20 (1) 46,233 47,076 -1.8%
    b21 (1) Infiniti 17,432 18,266 -4.6% b21 40,887 43,561 -6.1%
    b22 Cadillac 14,494 12,861 12.7% b22 36,727 33,982 8.1%
    b23 Mitsubishi 14,319 11,766 21.7% b23 (1) 35,772 29,147 22.7%
    b24 Acura 13,537 11,696 15.7% b24 (1) 33,414 31,762 5.2%
    b25 (1) Land Rover 10,972 7,965 37.8% b25 (1) 24,246 19,875 22.0%
    b26 (1) Lincoln 9,352 9,554 -2.1% b26 (1) 22,462 27,083 -17.1%
    b27 (1) Volvo 8,233 5,349 53.9% b27 20,083 13,426 49.6%
    b28 (1) Tesla 6,000 6,200 -3.2% b29 (1) 13,860 10,400 33.3%
    b29 (2) Porsche 4,756 4,479 6.2% b28 13,954 12,718 9.7%
    b30 (1) Mini 4,531 4,987 -9.1% b30 (1) 10,533 10,251 2.8%
    b31 (1) Jaguar 3,260 4,953 -34.2% b31 (2) 8,049 11,376 -29.2%
    b32 (3) Alfa Romeo 2,576 555 364.1% b32 (3) 5,792 1,106 423.7%
    b33 (1) Fiat 1,544 2,922 -47.2% b34 (2) 4,014 7,231 -44.5%
    b34 (1) Genesis 1,386 1,755 -21.0% b33 4,362 5,155 -15.4%
    b35 (1) Maserati 885 1,312 -32.5% b35 (1) 2,713 3,288 -17.5%
    b36 (1) Bentley 165 249 -33.7% b36 (1) 579 552 4.9%
    b37.5 (2.5) McLaren 132 65 103.1% b40 (1) 320 172 86.0%
    b37.5 (1.5) Smart 132 389 -66.1% b38 (2) 343 1,061 -67.7%
    b39 (1) Rolls-Royce 112 114 -1.8% b39 322 359 -10.3%
    b40 (1) Lamborghini 90 106 -15.1% b41 (1) 222 229 -3.1%

    * estimates

  1. What will the impact be of GM no longer releasing monthly sales data? (NB, I think your header should read March, not February).

    1. Hi Janet,

      We’ve been informed about this decision last week and have yet to see how we’re going to handle this. Perhaps we’ll have to rely on estimates by analysts or insiders in order to continue to feature GM models in our monthly ranking.

  2. very interesting … no sales data ? fear of recession , or every attempt is being made to cover up the real state of the economy both US and worldwide. The US and world economy will never have a recession again because too much is hinged on the huge pile of debt in all corners. So market will never crash, stores close “because of amazon” (can i beilve that?) . I think we are all in a constant state of contraction from 2008 on in all the world, the data may even be fake and made up, all make believe, (can i believe ford sells 80,000 f-150s in the us alone in a month ?) china has 50 million homes empty and keeps on building ? they sell 20 milllion cars a year ?

    Don’t know what is true anymore, but no more sales data (assuming that it was ever real in the first place) is very fishy indeed.

  3. Hi – I think that you are missing the Tesla Model 3 sales numbers here. Total US unit sales YTD should be just under 17,000. Thanks for all of the data collection you do.

    1. Seems that Tesla numbers should catch up since I wil my tesla 3 in 2 weeks, and productios is now at about 2K a week

  4. Although Mazda and VW offer new crossovers (the Germans even more), both are still unpopular brands in the States considering they are only fighting with each other. There is still a small gap between them and BMW whereas another luxury brand Mercedes even outsells these mainstream brands.

    1. Actually VW is growing in such a fast way that it scares me. How can a brand that was accused of a scandal go through it so rapidly and even make its market share grow by simply launching two new vehicles? I hope VW won’t surpass Mazda, because it doesn’t deserve this growth. On the contrary, Mazda is a very good brand, with advanced engines that deserves more popularity.

      1. Well, it’s not that hard to grow from their position compared with other more popular mainstream brands. After the emissions scandal, VW USA started to offer more incentives and discounts. The new crossovers aren’t left out so the current growth is highly artificial.

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